Thursday, March 27, 2008

Top Racers, Chassis Builder will be Honored at 2008 Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunionby Bill Groak

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Top drivers from every era of NHRA drag racing, an incredible engine and transmission builder and a group of engineers that created Chrysler's drag racing program make up the Honorees for the 2008 Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion.

Grand Marshal Dick LaHaie, Honorees Arnie Beswick, Gabby Bleeker, Boogie Scott, Bob Stange and Jim Walter, along with Justice Brothers Reunion Spotlight Award winners, the Ramchargers, will be feted as part of the 6th annual National Reunion, Jun. 13-15, 2008 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Ky. Each of the Honorees has his own important accomplishments.

Grand Marshal Dick LaHaie was selected as one of the NHRA's all-time Top 50 drivers, Michigan's LaHaie has proven himself worthy of numerous honors, and is a member of The Drag Racing Hall of Fame. In a career that has spanned over 40 years, LaHaie won The NHRA Winston Top Fuel Championship as a driver in 1987 and as the crew chief for Scott Kalitta in 1994 and 1995. In addition to his professional racing accomplishments, Dick and wife Claudia own several show quality street rods.

For more than 55 years, Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick has raced down the nation's drag strips, winning numerous championships in a variety of classes. Arnie is one of the few still-active drivers who competed at the very first NHRA Nationals at Great Bend, Kan., and has no plans to retire anytime soon. His achievements, from the Stock Classes to Funny Cars, earned Beswick's entry into The Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

Not one to be intimidated by the west coast superstars, Chicago's Gabby Bleeker built and drove one of the most fearsome fuel altereds of the 1960's. In the days before Funny Cars, Gabby's Chrysler powered Bantam was one of the fastest full bodied cars to ever hit the track, and thrilled thousands of Midwest fans for many years.

Truly a "racer's racer," Boogie Scott has a career to be envied by any hot rodder. For some 50 years, Boogie has built and driven championship quality cars for the street, the strip, and the salt. Still active, Scott was a recent inductee into the exclusive Bonneville Salt Flats 200 MPH Club, and continues to construct a variety of cars at his Covington, La. shop.

Few individuals have offered the level of support to drag racing as Bob Stange. While developing and producing the finest in driveline components through his company, Strange Engineering, Bob has also provided a countless number of racers a personal level of assistance that is unmatched. As a longtime sponsor of the legendary "Greek," Chris Karamesines, Bob Stange continues to honor the sport's heritage.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Ohio was a hot bed of dragster activity, and Jim Walther was consistently one of top performers of the nitro class. Walther gained national prominence in 1972 by driving his "Special Edition" machine to NHRA Top Fuel World Championship honors over the nation's best racers. In addition to racing, Walther dedicated more than 40 years to the production of top quality speed equipment.

In 1959 a group of engineers from Chrysler Corporation joined together around their common interest in drag racing. Their first project was a unique '49 Plymouth C/Altered named "The High and the Mighty." Their work with long horn intake manifolds and exhaust tuning led to the name Ramchargers. They were urged to develop Dodge drag racing cars and their red and white candy striped Super Stock team cars of 1963-'64 soon became winners. Things quickly evolved to '64 A/FXers, altered wheelbase sedans and in '66 to tube-frame flip top Funny Cars. The Ramchargers were credited with some of the first seven and six-second Funny Car runs while simultaneously running a series of Top Fuel dragsters.

The 6th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, June 13-15 at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Ky., is a 3-day festival of speed, hot rods and American automotive enthusiasm. Produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California and located in Pomona, Calif., the Reunion is part of the museum's "living history" philosophy, which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.

Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods and customs of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.

Those purchasing their credentials at least three weeks before the event receive significant added value including a "goodie" bag, Reunion program, commemorative dash plaque and a colorful and collectible plastic souvenir credential. Three-day credentials ($55 each) are available at 800/884-NHRA or through an application on the Museum's web site at Individual tickets are available day-of the event. Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.

The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:

- Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes at Nostalgia Top Fuel, Funny Car, Altereds, Supercharged Gassers, Classic Super Stock, Hot Rods and others.

- Street rod "show 'n shine," presented by SoffSeal, with thousands of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars.

- Open house at Holley, Thurs., June 12, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., followed by the Heacock Classic Insurance Show 'n Shine cruise to the Holiday Inn University Plaza, the host hotel. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 5 p.m.

- National Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Holiday Inn University Plaza's Bowling Green Convention Center ballroom on Friday evening, June 13. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes.

- Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."

- The Swap meet and Reunion Midway filled with manufacturer exhibits and demonstrations

- A separate amusement park with rides and games for all ages adjacent to the park.

Information, including a full activities schedule, entry forms and tickets, is available through the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum at or by sending a post card or note to NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, 1101 McKinley Ave., Bldg, 3A, Pomona, Calif. 91768. Requests can be emailed to

Proceeds of the Holley Hot Rod Reunion benefit the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Celebrating its 10th anniversary and named for the founder of the National Hot Rod Association, the Parks Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California houses the very roots of hot rodding. Scores of famous vehicles spanning American motorsports history are on display, including winning cars representing 50 years of drag racing, dry lakes and salt-flat racers, oval track challengers and exhibits describing their colorful backgrounds.

The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. Current NHRA members are admitted free and Auto Club members enjoy a $2 discount. Admission for non-members is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 60 and older, $5 for juniors six through 15, and free for children under the age of five. The Museum is also available for special group tours. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is located at Fairplex Gate 1, 1101 W. McKinley Ave. in Pomona. For further information on special exhibits, museum events or directions, call 909/622-2133 or visit

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